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Local organization files lawsuit against Broome County Sheriff

Justice and Unity for the Southern Tier (JUST), a grassroots anti-mass incarceration organization and local family members announced a lawsuit against Broome County Sheriff David Harder.
(Maci Cosmore)
Published: May. 13, 2022 at 7:28 PM EDT
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BINGHAMTON (WBNG) -- On Friday, Justice and Unity for the Southern Tier (JUST), a grassroots anti-mass incarceration organization and local family members announced a lawsuit against Broome County Sheriff David Harder.

“Almost 400 people languish in the Broome County Jail under florescent lights and terrible conditions,” said JUST Member Andrew Pragacz. “To top all of that off, they’re not even allowed to visit in-person with their family members, their loved ones and their children with their mothers, with their sisters and with their brothers.”

Pragacz said the lawsuit’s purpose is to bring back in-person visitation at the Broome County Jail for the first time in over two years.

Pragacz shared his opinion about the restrictions.

“The Broome County jail has been without in-person visitation and without contact with loved ones and incarcerated people for over two years now in response to the COVID-19 pandemic,” he said. “A pandemic I might add that the sheriff never took seriously in the first place.”

In addition, Pragacz said jails across the state; including Rikers Island, Monroe County, Chautauqua County, and neighboring county jails like Tioga, Tompkins and Cortland have reopened visitation with restrictions like mask requirements.

“These are exactly what we request here.”

Shakeda Paupaw said she has a loved one in the Broome County Jail, and she said keeping on contact with them has become expensive.

“Just the cost of the phone calls alone is too expensive. I feel like they want so much money and it’s not even a long amount of time to even speak to your loved one at all over the phone. They have tablets, but they don’t really work. Sometimes they connect and sometimes they don’t. Then you have to pay for spots to even have a visit,” said Paupaw. “I just feel like they should just open it up so people can see their children and their loved ones. They’re taking dads away from their children and moms away from their kids and it’s just not right.”

Toni Norton said she’s been visiting the jail for years.

When asked how different phone calls and visitation rights were before the pandemic she said, “There are no rights at this point. That’s the difference.”

12 News has been in contact with Broome County Sheriff David Harder. We spoke with him before the JUST press conference and he told us that he had not been served with any lawsuit and could not make a comment on the matter at that time.

This is a developing story and 12 News will continue to follow it.

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